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SLU virologists harness adenovirus to kill breast cancer cells
Date:5/23/2014

ST. LOUIS With a $40,250 grant from the Lottie Caroline Hardy Charitable Trust Fund, researchers at Saint Louis University's Institute for Molecular Virology will study a small fragment of adenovirus as a possible future therapy for HER2 breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women. Despite major advances, it is still the leading cause of death from cancer in women. The HER2 oncogene is implicated in 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers and has a poor prognosis. Current therapy for HER2 cancers (Herceptin and chemotherapy) is not enough to combat this deadly cancer and cannot treat a substantial number of cases.

The adenovirus is a common virus, and researcher Maurice Green, Ph.D., chair of SLU's Institute for Molecular Virology, has studied it for years. He hopes to tame the virus's abilities to kill cancer cells in order to use it as a therapy.

"It's been an ambition of mine for a long time," Green said. "Long ago, I was stationed in the Philippines, and I had nothing to do but read about medicine and that's where my interest started."

Dedicating his career to the study of virology, Green was a pioneer in using viruses to probe the functions of normal cells and to understand how cancer works on the molecular level. Green chose the adenovirus as a focus of study and he and his lab developed the first working model of the virus.

Now, Green and colleague Paul Loewenstein, assistant research professor in the department, have found that a small region of the E1A protein, an adenovirus gene, is capable of repressing HER2 cell growth.

Significantly, this function appears to be controlled by the first 80 amino acids (E1A 1-80) of the entire E1A oncogene.

This is a promising finding, because it means that researchers can focus on this small region of the adenovirus without delving into the rest of the E1A oncogene, which has other functions.

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Contact: Carrie Bebermeyer
bebermcl@slu.edu
314-977-8015
Saint Louis University
Source:Eurekalert  

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